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Sunday, July 19, 2015

India loses to Zimbabwe in T20; England struggle and Utseya alleges racism

Years back in 2010,   Prosper Utseya resigned as captain of Zimbabwe, handing over a formal resignation letter following a meeting with the managing director of Zimbabwe Cricket. Elton Chigumbura replaced him … today, the captain was Sikandar Raza Butt, born in Sialkot, Pakistan.  Always economical but rarely incisive, Utseya came of age with the ball during the tour to West Indies in May 2006, where his flight and spin belied his lack of experience and years.  Utseya captained the side in the darkest days of Zimbabwe cricket, but despite some positive results in recent times  could not cope up with the pressure and eventually faded.

Today in T20 Zimbabwe 145 for 7 (Chibhabha 67) beat India 135 for 9 (Uthappa 42, Cremer 3-18) by 10 runs.

India had a bad start losing Ajinkya Rahane, run out for a duck.  There was a good partnership between Murali Vijay and Uthappa, the latter contributing more – wickets fell – there was another minor partnership between Stuart Binny and Sanju Samson, the debutant….but !  when Uthappa belted around, India galloped to 57/1 and seemed cantering towards a win.  Vijay heaved at Cremer, was bowled and balls later  Manish Pandey got a shocking decision.  When the chase was on, it was evident that IPL stars would not make it ….  Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Samson, Axar Patel – all pale shadows, while Sandeep Sharma, went for runs once again.

Zimbabwe’s struggles are far from over - offspinner Prosper Utseya has, in a letter to Zimbabwe Cricket, claimed that he is a victim of racism and has levelled a string of allegations against Alistair Campbell, managing director of ZC. In his  letter to Wilson Manase, ZC chairman, Utseya claims Campbell has a personal agenda and appointed  white coaches and administrators during his 2010-2012 stint as chairman of the cricket committee in order to take control of cricket.  Besides, he alleges that Campbell had a conflict of interest in setting up Dominus Sport, the company that ran ZC's marketing affairs during his time as cricket committee chairman, and his actions had an impact on ZC's funds.  With Utseya openly basing some of these claims in the letter on "rumour", he would appear to be open to legal action, though the matter may ultimately be dealt with internally at ZC. It is understood that ZC is currently investigating the letter.

ESPN reports that the  letter copies all ZC board members and bears the headline "Racism and Victimisation", and begins: "Through you Mr. Chairman I wish to share my frustrations as I believe I am a victim of racism and have come to a point where I feel I have been quiet for too long whilst a lot has been happening." After more than 10,000 words, Utseya finally closes his case with a plea for the board to consider his concerns. Utseya, who was in Zimbabwe's World Cup squad but did not get a game, claims he considered leaving the World Cup prematurely out of frustration, and cites Campbell's pre-tournament comments as a back story to support his contention that ZC's managing director conspired against his potential selection.

Utseya was banned from bowling after testing in September 2014. In December, his offbreak was found to be illegal but his other deliveries were deemed legal, and so he was cleared to bowl again so long as he did not utilise his stock ball.  This is not the first instance of allegations of racism surfacing in the Zimbabwe cricket set-up. Cricket remained a predominantly white sport in Zimbabwe for two decades after majority rule in 1980, although after Henry Olonga became the country's first black cricketer in 1995, other black players started to filter through.

In Srilanka, the host are chasing 317 in 3rd ODI – in the 2nd, Kusal Perera hammered Sri Lanka's joint fastest fifty in ODIs [50 off 17 balls], which made a target of 288 look like a cakewalk.  When  92 runs were needed off 112 balls with only four wickets left, debutant Sachith Pathirana produced a decisive cameo [33 off 28] - to help the hosts square the series with an action-packed two-wicket victory.

At Lords, at the time of posting this @ 9 pm – England are looking down the barrel, with a day to go and another 408 to make with a solitary wicket  at hand. The score card reads : Australia 566/8 decl & 254/2 decl; England 312 & 101/9….

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

19th July 2015. 

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